Production

Say hello to my little friends!

As you’d know manufacturing has been powering along, and today I’m about to finalise my QC, and approve the manufacturing of 19,158 light bulbs. 1000 (Edison Screw) have been made already and I’m really happy with the end result. We finally get our FCC ID Thursday too, and with that, we have all the certifications needed in the key regions. Version one of the iOS app is complete and has been submitted for approval and the Android app early next week. We’ll let you know once they’re ready to download! The core functions will be in both apps, with an update to follow shortly after with whole kit and caboodle 😉

Our focus now shifts to the logistics: sequencing, line capacity, packaging, tracking numbers and delivery. At this stage it looks like the line is capable of producing 1,500 units per day. So during the course of the next two to three weeks – all items should be manufactured (less the GU10’s) and on their way. I’ll report back on accurate figures as they start rolling off – as I’m keen to see the day-to-day output and targets being met and providing each of you tracking numbers as your bulbs are ready. If you need your address changed, now’s the final chance to let us know! (By emailing: support@lifx.co).

In the meantime the over whelming feeling is one of relief and excitement. From Friday we’re shipping, and it’s a massive thank-you to each and everyone of you for your patience, support making this happen and the encouragement, questions and comments along the way!

Whilst this is a big day, it’s certainly not the last update from us by any means, there’s still lots of work to do on shipping, customer support, manufacturing the GU10’s and getting those to you, and of course batch two ships in the not too distant future. We’re also finishing off and releasing the hacker kit and SDK so we can start engaging with all the smart and eager developers that want to build cool stuff! So, no rest for the team just yet, but we’re all excited and have a fresh sense of purpose and energy now with this big box about to be ticked!

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Production motoring along.

A quick update because it’s a flurry of activity at the moment between finalizing and submitting the apps; testing the bulbs on almost every router we can get our hands on; making last minute firmware updates; and gearing up for all the little things you need to think about pre-shipping. Paperwork, logistics, packaging, shipping you name it – it’s the convergence of 12 months hard work and that’s just here in the office!

The real action is happening in Shenzhen, with Marc overseeing all aspects of the manufacturing, and Shane building and programming the end of line test-gear and then flashing the firmware onto thousands of LIFX control boards ready for insertion into the bulbs as they come off the line. We’re still awaiting our FCC ID too, which is painful, as we need to print that on each and every bulb we send to the US. As you can imagine Uncle Sam closing his doors for 17 days has caused a backlog at FCC HQ, but we’re hopeful we’ll have this in the coming days.

Will keep you posted on this as soon as we hear something. The FCC ID doesn’t affect international backers. In the meantime, I’m off to Shenzhen Sunday with quite a few of LIFX team to get the first fully assembled units from the line; ensure QC standards are at a level we’re comfortable with, and all things going well start the shipping before the month ends. Will report back on the exact shipping process for distributing tracking numbers, and some more updates from Shenzhen, including FCC ID numbers, as well as news on the availability of both apps (iOS & Android) when they hit the respective stores.

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Certification and a video update.

Hi folks,

Thanks for your patience while we’ve put this update together. It’s been a busy few weeks with the certification underway.

As in the last update the CE, UL and FCC are all underway – and so far the only change we’ve had to make was to an antenna on our control board for FCC which we’ve since fixed. This doesn’t add time to the schedule as it was within the window for UL certification. So on this front we’re keeping our fingers crossed as it’s the nervous period for us and one we’re looking forward to getting through without making too many changes.

In the meantime we haven’t been sitting around idly. Marc and I spent the past month in Shenzhen setting up the end-of-line process. This is the automated process for testing the control boards; installing the firmware; calibrating the colors; inserting the NSA chips (jokes) and turning ordinary bulbs into smart bulbs.

The other major undertaking for us of late has been getting groups of bulbs performing well across the mesh network. As you’d know, this month is the first month we’ve had a large number of factory bulbs on hand so we’ve been heavily testing all aspects of a multi-bulb set-up and ensuring they perform well.

At first the performance was awful so for the past few weeks Shane, Barney and the team have done an amazing job of getting it to a level of quality we’re happy with. Here’s a quick video of a multi-bulb set-up in action.

So we’re getting close now. The pieces are all in place and we’ll continue to test and improve the performance of the software stack and will be releasing the API soon. In the meantime we’re hanging tight on the certification and will keep you updated on the progress. Once this phase is complete we’ll have a firm shipping timeline, release the apps and get your bulbs to you! After that, I might take a week off, drink a Pina Colada and get back to some of the retailers that have been stalking my LinkedIN profile 😉

C-Samples off the line!

Hi folks, it’s been a busy four weeks since we’ve posted, with the team spread across the world and everyone working their buts off but we have some good news to share. The first units are off the line.

We don’t yet have the full 500 as we’re taking one last look at the power supply and had to re-order a small batch of the RGB LED’s from our supplier as these first one’s weren’t up the standards we required, so whilst this is a bit annoying, we aren’t prepared to compromise for a few days gain. As a result I pushed back my trip to to Shenzhen, as my role kicks in when the production line starts.

However Marc (LIFX lead engineer) is on the ground there now overseeing end-of-line testing; mass production of the control boards (Our order of 25,000 WiFi chips and MCU’s arrived in our control board assembly facility ready for the production run) and working on the power-supply.

Marc’s also spending a lot of time perfecting the diffuser which can make a big difference to final lumen output and of course the light diffusion around a room. The end result is a poly carbonate which accentuates the colors and smooths out the whites we which feel suits the bulb perfectly. It will improve again from this point (and looks a lot better in person!) but here’s a quick demonstration on video.

So whilst the hardware is still in that arm wrestle phase we described previously overall we’re really happy with the progress.

While Marc’s in Shenzhen, I’m in the US working on partnerships. Our goal for LIFX is to not only deliver the best product, but that will work with an eco-system of other devices you love 😉 We’re talking to some amazing brands about how LIFX can work seamlessly with them, and we have a lot more that we plan to meet and talk with over the next few months.

None of this would be possible without the fantastic support of the firmware guys, our app team at home, our partners such as ThingSquare and our CTO Daniel May who’s worked tirelessly on our API over the past weeks which is being tested this week.

Whilst the hardware is what most of us are interested and the most visible part of the progress, the software and firmware has probably been more work.

A key part of this, is of course the app, and this has also been a major focus over the past few weeks. Ben, Nathan, Mike and Adam are all putting in the extra miles to make it continually better and are submitting to the app store on June 30, and Google Play soon after. As it’s 90% complete, in the next update we’ll able to show you the full version and how it works (possibly using App.io) and of course you’ll be able to download it soon!

So a lot of progress is being made and everything’s converging well, but of course the arm wrestle continues as this phase is definitely the hardest part of a manufacturing run.  We really appreciate everyone’s support and encouragement and we’ll keep sharing news as it comes to hand.

I’m now back in Shenzhen next week and will update soon after with news about first 500 units, certification and tooling up for the GU10!

The arm wrestle as we inch closer.

We’ve been back in Shenzhen for the past few days, and as always it’s a stressful but exciting time. The factory is humming along as the tooling continues and we await the first batch off the line.

Having done the rounds on Monday though, the 500 initial units are behind schedule, which is frustrating, as the UL/CE certification can’t commence without them. This isn’t down to any single factor, more a combination of many little things (e.g. minor component swap outs, power supply performance tweaks, correcting texture samples, serial number printing, end of line test gear, etc, etc).

The revised date for the initial 500 is now June 14th and considering certification takes three weeks, all going well we should be in a position by July 8th to push ‘go’ on the main run and starting rolling shipping as the bulbs come off the line.

This is has been frustrating but as I have to remind myself we’re creating the assembly line, not just the first batch. Once this first 500 are tested, certified and we’re 100% happy with it all then we’re in a good position to crank a lot of these things out in a short amount of time and get them on their way to you! 🙂

Probably the only people in the world happy with the few extra weeks are the software team. Damn them (note: we do love them), but having a few extra weeks up their sleeve gives them time to refine, test and build more stuff before submitting to the app store (and Google Play). For example, the ability to issue over-the-air firmware updates to the bulbs was always going to be a push for us, but we’re now confident this will make the cut.

The other thing we wanted to show you in this update was some real-world examples of how your bulbs will perform in the wild. Here’s a comparison we took of LIFX on one of its brightest settings vs some other bulbs we had at hand.

‘Images taken using identical camera settings for each bulb. With rubber chicken control’

So, apologies again to keep you waiting. The bottle neck has caused us a headache but it’s something we’ll push through and it’s good to know we’re inching ever closer.

Next update will be before June 14 when we’re back in Shenzhen again and I’ll report back on these dates as we guide the production through this tricky phase, and onto the fun part, eating Congee at the hotel, wait, no, sending these on their way to you!

 

It may appear that things are quiet at the LIFX HQ, but like a duck in a pond there’s a lot of activity going on under the surface. Tooling is nearing completion with 500 units being readied to hit the production line. Back home the firmware has progressed to alpha testing stage.

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It’s exciting to be this close but also quite daunting as our baby is now almost entirely in the hands of our Shenzhen production partner. The time we’ve spent with them over the past three months is greatly reassuring at this stage: they certainly know what they’re doing and they know how to do it well.

We’ve booked flights back to Shenzhen on the 20th of May, and according to plan we don’t anticipate any deviation from the revised timeline. Getting our hands on and testing the 500 bulb batch will really confirm how well we’re tracking.

One unpleasant surprise we’ve had is the cost of tooling and certification works out roughly double our initial estimates, including tooling for the packaging (yep, packaging has tooling too!). This isn’t a huge drama for us, but it’s a lesson to remember the correlation between production volume and higher setup costs. Overall the packaging has been an adventure in itself (e.g. minimum surface area for postal labels, etc). We’re happy with progress on that front too and think you’ll dig it.

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The other major component of the project nearing completion is the app.

The iOS version and Android versions are mostly written and functional; and we’ll update you when they’ve been submitted to the App Store and Google Play. The overall interface has gone through a few iterations even since the last video, and we’ve sweated the testing of UI/UX with different users of varying degrees of skill.  The overall goal is to make things fast, fun and easy to use but with plenty of ability to customise your lighting and geek out on some finer points if you so desire.

Part of these efforts involves trialling a browser/AirPlay implementation of a virtual bulb so you’ll be able to experience the app even before your bulbs arrive. Developers will probably find this useful too when the official API/SDK specs are released in the near future.

Logistics is yet another whole field we probably now know more about then we ever wanted to. Once we’ve tested and refined the first 500 bulbs, we push ‘go’ on the production run from Shenzhen. At that point, as bulbs come off the production line, we commence rolling shipping (most likely via air mail). Air mail costs more (we’ll absorb) but it means getting the already-delayed bulbs out faster to backers. Between myself, Andrew and Mike we’ve spoken to nearly 25 different logistics companies and settled on Shipwire as our preferred option. They’ve been a massive help and have personally spent a lot of time on optimising our campaign. Big thanks to Jeremy on this one!

So things are certainly afoot and we’re building up to the major anticipation/nervousness/excitement of folk using (and judging) the product we’ve poured so much blood, sweat and tears into.

Stay tuned for our next update from Shenzhen.